GPs sign up to end of life care charter

GPs in England are being asked to sign up to a patient charter pledging to treat patients with dignity as they near the end of their life.

Under the seven-point charter, doctors will be expected to ask patients how they want to be treated in their final days, including whether they want to be resuscitated. They will pledge to preserve patients’ “independence, dignity and sense of personal control” and to support their family and friends.

The charter was drawn up by the Royal College of General Practitioners and Royal College of Nursing in a bid to ensure all patients receive the best care available. The information may be kept on a central NHS database so all staff will be aware of patients’ wishes if, for example, they end up in A&E.

All 8,500 GP practices in England are being sent a copy of the charter to display in waiting rooms. A dedicated microsite will be launched giving healthcare professionals online access to practical support and guidance. GP working groups in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have been sent a copy of the charter and will decide whether to adopt it.

Patients are being invited to comment on the charter and suggest ways of improving it.

Professor Keri Thomas, RCGP clinical champion for end of life care, said: “GPs and their teams have a special relationship not just with their patients but with the people close to them, all of whom need special care and support through the process of dying. We hope the charter will be an invaluable means of encouraging and supporting best care for our patients nearing the end of life.”

Professor Mike Richards, NHS clinical director for end of life care, added: “GPs are often best placed to identify people who are approaching the end of life and to initiate discussions with them about their priorities and preferences for care. They have a central role in the provision of end of life care.”

More information is available on the RCGP website.  

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